Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Heat Pump and Air Conditioner

heatpump-pdHeat Pump vs Air Conditioner

Heat pumps and air conditioners share all internal components, but their mode of operation is quite different. The mode of operation for heat pumps is known as the reverse refrigeration cycle, whereas air conditioners operate on a regular vapor compression cycle.
However, there’s a host of other factors that differentiate the two.

Air conditioners are mainly used for cooling purposes, and maintaining conditions of comfort during high temperatures. As for heat pumps, their main function is to keep a room heated during very low atmospheric temperature conditions. However, the key difference between their uses is that a heat pump can be used for both heating and cooling purposes, while an air conditioner is strictly used to cool; although, if you are conscious about energy consumption, then an air conditioner will do better as its more energy efficient.

The condenser’s main function in a heat pump is to generate heating for the room, and it is put inside the room to be heated. The room is kept heated when air blows over the condenser and absorbs the heat, and then flows back into the room. However, the condenser in an air conditioner is used to expel heat into the atmosphere, and it is put outside of the room to be cooled.

The cooling effect provided by air conditioners is produced by the cooling coil, which is also the evaporator. This is the main functioning component in an air conditioner, and while it is located within the room to be cooled, in a heat pump it is located outside the room to be heated, and here it is used to absorb heat from the atmosphere that is at a lower temperature.

Performance wise, the coefficient of performance of a heat pump will always be more than one, whereas that of an air conditioner can either be one or less than one depending on the atmospheric temperature and the room conditions.

Comparing general use, heat pumps are ideal for year round use in places with moderate temperatures, for instance, in Mid South United States. It can be tuned for cooling during the hot summers and re-tuned for heating during Spring and Fall. For places that are fairly hot throughout the year, like South Florida and California, heat pumps would have little use, and it is best to invest in a more energy efficient air conditioner.

Heat pumps use a reverse refrigeration cycle, while air conditioners use the regular vapor compression cycle.
Heat pumps primarily heat rooms, while air conditioners cool rooms.
Heat pumps use the condenser to generate heat, while in an air conditioner it is used to expel heat.
The coefficient of performance is always greater than one for a heat pump, while for an air conditioner it can be one or less.

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  1. In the southern U.S. heat pumps are growing in popularity. They efficiently cool your home, just like a regular central air system but they heat even more efficiently than a natural gas furnace in moderate climates.

  2. This is really a poor explanation of the difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner. The thermodynamics are identical, and the fundamental difference between the two is that a heat pump uses a reversing valve and some additional plumbing to move the refrigerant in the opposite way through the two heat exchangers. Efficiency for the cooling mode would be the same (for the comparable product), and in heating mode, you get relatively inexpensive (compared to electric resistance) heating from the same unit.

    The typical price differential for a residential heat pump doesn’t seem to correlate with the actual mechanical differences between them.

  3. Having read this I thought it was really enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this
    information together. I once again find myself personally
    spending way too much time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

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